The Mayflower is one of those restaurants that has been around for years but seems to be rather displaced. Tucked away in Duke St, it falls out of the border of Chinatown but isn’t fortunate enough to benefit from the footfall of Liverpool One either, despite it being in spitting distance from the bus station. With Chinese buffet restaurants springing up like mushrooms, how does the Mayflower measure up of a lunchtime with its £5.90 business lunch?

Despite its dull façade, the Mayflower has a garishly eye-catching interior, a 10 foot Buddha statue greets you on entering, a fish tank fills the length of the back wall and the tables are flanked with red ornamental pillars. To top it off, a pan pipe version of My Heart Will Go On fills the room, a perfectly cheesy soundtrack to a credit crunch lunch.

The staff were friendly and not rushing the diners, unlike some other restaurants in the city I shan’t mention. Despite it being an express lunch, I felt no need to hurry and the service was just as good as if I were paying top dollar somewhere.

The starters consisted of the usual Chinese mainstays like Chicken and Sweetcorn Soup, Spring Rolls and ribs, with a good choice of meat and veggie options. I went for the Vegetarian Sweetcorn soup while my carnivorous colleague went for the proper version.

This is where some business lunches fall down by serving lukewarm soup, or putting meat in the veggie soup, but Mayflower did me proud. The soup was roasting hot, and as you can see from the picture, it was a decent-sized portion.

Like the starters, the main courses consist of the usual old favourites of Anglicised Chinese cuisine: satay, sweet and sour, chilli sauce, curry and black bean sauce dishes, served with either tofu, veg, chicken, beef or prawn. I opted for the Stir Fried Mixed Veg in Chili Sauce, while The Carnivore chowed down on Sweet and Sour Chicken, both served with Egg Fried Rice.

The Chili Sauce had a fabulous kick, Chinese Vindaloo you may call it. An eclectic mix of cashew nuts, baby corn, water chestnuts, carrots and beansprouts, it’s nothing fancy and wouldn’t win any praise from Gordon Ramsay, but it tasted amazing. The Egg Fried Rice tasted freshly made, fluffy with the perfect balance of egg and rice, unlike some of these pesky buffet restaurants where it tastes overcooked, over-steamed and over-oiled.

The third course of the meal was a choice between coffee, ice cream or fruit. I am pleased to report the coffee was ‘proper’ and not my pet hate instant coffee. Eschewing the fruit, I chose the ice cream, served in one of those little metal dishes synonymous with business lunch desserts. Top marks for Mayflower for using Neapolitan ice cream instead of boring old vanilla.

The business lunch lasted 70 min and was so relaxed, it could have lasted longer, but if you were stuck for time, you could always bypass dessert and have it done in 50. At £5.90 a head plus a litre of sparkling water at £4.60 (for some bizarre reason, it’s actually cheaper to buy two 500ml bottles I found out later), this credit crunch lunch for two came in at a reasonable £16.40. Unpretentious Chinese food at its best combined with pan pipe cover versions of cheesy crooners – what more can you ask for?

Duke Street, Liverpool

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